Shadow Minister for Faiths; Janet Daby MP asks the Minister for Education Nick Gibb MP a question about RE

NATRE, the RE Council (REC) and RE Today had a very productive meeting with the Janet Daby MP in October 2020. They learned that the Shadow Minister, who is the MP for Lewisham East, had served on Lewisham SACRE and was fully conversant with the issues surrounding the subject. Following the meeting, she entered the ballot to ask an oral question in parliament and was successful. The exchange, as reported in Hansard follows below:

You can watch the video on Parliament TV here

Religious Education: Maintained Schools: 12 October 2020

Janet Daby (Lewisham East) (Lab): What steps he is taking to ensure maintained schools comply with requirements to teach religious education. [907364]

The Minister for School Standards (Nick Gibb): Maintained schools are required to teach religious education to all five to 18-year-olds. Any concerns that a maintained school is not meeting that duty should first go through the school’s complaints procedure, and if the complaint is not resolved, the issue can be escalated to the Department’s school complaints unit.

Janet Daby: Religious education helps children to grow up with an understanding of and respect for people from different religious, ethnic and cultural backgrounds. It is also a statutory requirement, but the Religious Education Council tells me that 40% of all schools give no hours to RE in year 11. Does the Minister agree that the Department needs to better support schools to ensure that they are meeting their obligations to teach RE?

Nick Gibb: I agree with the hon. Member. Good quality religious education can help to develop children’s knowledge of the values and traditions of Britain and other countries, and foster understanding among different faiths and cultures. At a national level, the proportion of time secondary schools spend teaching RE has actually remained broadly stable. It was 3.2% of all teaching hours in 2010 and 3.3% in 2019.

Source: https://hansard.parliament.uk/commons/2020-10-12/debates/D4C4FA2A-9950-4149-B266-6CAEEA74DFFC/ReligiousEducationMaintainedSchools

The figure of 3.2% (about 50 minutes per week) is distorted by the inclusion of schools with a religious character who typically allocate more time to RE than other schools. According to the school workforce data for 2019, which includes 85% of schools. The average hours offered by all schools (2941) is 3.1% but schools including academies with a religious character (546) offer 6.9% whereas Academies without a religious character (493) offer 2.2% - only about 33 minutes.